Professional Development: A Critical Need for a Successful Program
Most family literacy educators agree that professional development is important to a quality program. Research has identified some basic principles that family literacy professional development should be based upon. While the following list of research-based principles for family literacy professional development is not exhaustive, it does discuss the most fundamental of the principles.
Research-based Principles for Family Literacy Professional Development based on Adult Learning Theory
Family literacy educators are adult learners. But, they are not a homogenous group. Rather, they are very different from each other: they come to family literacy with different backgrounds and they work in different situations. They have a range of experiences, a range of experience in family literacy and different motivations for participating in professional development.
Brookfield (1991) discusses some basic commonalities that have implications for professional development. Among them are:
- Adult learners engage in purposeful exploration of a field of knowledge or skills;
- Adult learners bring to the learning a set of experiences, skills and knowledge that will influence the acquisition of new knowledge; and
- Prior knowledge and experience are valuable curriculum resources for professional development.
Professional Development Needs Assessment
The Texas Family Literacy Resource Center believes that family literacy educators should articulate their ownneeds for professional development as opposed to having others assume they can articulate for them. Family literacy educators participating in professional development are adult learners, and adult learning theory tells us that adults are more involved in learning when they have a say in what and how they will learn (Lytle, Belzer & Reumann, 1993; Vella, 1994; Wrigley & Guth, 1992).
In order to provide a successful environment for professional growth and development, teachers should be involved in designing and implementing professional development experiences. In order to begin to gather the data to know what those experiences should look like, the Texas Family Literacy Resource Center created the Texas Family Literacy Professional Development Needs Assessment.
The needs assessment contained sections for each family literacy component: adult education, parent education, early childhood education, interactive literacy activities, and home visits. In addition, the needs assessment contains sections for program administrators and also contains a technology section for all family literacy educators.